By Pia Gutierrez – Frenchman Fred Evrard has come to the Philippines to bring the almost-forgotten Filipino martial art of Kali back to the Filipinos.

A master of many forms of martial arts, Evrard came to know about Kali in the States. “I fell in love with it almost immediately. I find in Kali the combination of almost all the elements of every other martial art I know,” said Evrard.

Developed during pre-colonial Philippines, Kali utilizes weapons such as (rattan) sticks, knives and swords, while teaching empty hand skills such as kicking, striking and grappling. It is considered by experts as a complete martial arts system that develop many different types of skills for combat.

It’s growth and popularity in the Philippines, however, was reportedly cut short during the exodus of Kali experts to the US during the Marcos era. Kali initially gained much popularity in the States, eventually spreading to European countries.

“As a result,” Filipino Kali expert Michael Bugnosen said, “there are more foreign experts in Kali than Filipinos. Here, most Filipinos do not even know what Kali is.”

Bugnosen said that he himself had to be trained in Singapore.

This is the reason why Evrard and Bugnosen deemed it their mission to teach Filipinos their own martial arts system that has reportedly gained much following in other countries.

Teaching a small group of Army and police black belters and enthusiasts, Evrard showed them his own technique that he has developed over the years – the Kali Majapahit.

Evrard said, however, that he is not solely interested in Kali as a sport. “I was fascinated more by the cultural aspect of Kali. I find the Filipino culture very interesting, and even as a Frenchman, I feel a strong connection towards it.”

Inspector Abdul Salam Calde said he is eager to learn this martial art. Assigned in Lanao del Sur, the policeman said he feels ashamed to see US Marines knowing more about Kali than Filipinos. He plans to teach his fellow policemen this martial art.

“Kali is more straightforward, and easier to learn compared to other martial arts,” said Chief Inspector Jim Tombok of the Cordillera police.

Bugnosen is positive about this renewed interest to learn about Kali. He said he has already lined up a number of Kali seminars in Baguio City to get more people interested in this martial art.

For now, though, it seems that foreigners are the ones more interested in learning Kali. Just last week, a Russian anti-terrorist group came to the Baguio to learn about Kali under Bugnosen’s group.

Check out Fred Evrard and his Kali Majapahit website.

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